Political ethics ‘an orphan of the PL and PN’, says Green Party

Parties should not be in the pocket of big business and law should regulate lobbying, the green party said

Alternattiva Demokratika candidates outside parliament in Valletta
Alternattiva Demokratika candidates outside parliament in Valletta

Alterrnattiva Demokratika have added to the chorus of criticism aimed at the Muscat government and Malta's political class as a whole, calling ethics in public life "the orphan of the PL and PN".

AD secretary general Ralph Cassar said the country's institutions were "weak and incapable of stopping transgressors because they have been designed​ this way over the years by the PN and the PL". The system was made in such a way as to be totally dependant on the prime minister, the green party says.

“How many PN candidates are taking commissions from passport sales and big business?” asked Cassar, highlighting that large conflicts of interests exist in both major parties.
Parties that say one thing about funding and then have links to big business could not be trusted, he said.

“If there is a standout issue it is this: that there are no checks and balances to prevent disgusting abuses of power.

“Before we fix the cracks in the Constitution we will continue to see this type of greed.”

AD made several proposals, insisting for example that the appointment of the Commissioner of Police should not depend on the government of the day, so as to allow the police to investigate immediately should necessity arise, without interference from the government.”  Backbenchers should not be given roles in the government, but should be scrutinising it, they said."Scrutiny cannot remain in government hands," the party insisted.

Other public appointments should be taken out of the government's hands and given to parliament to avoid dependence on the party they belong to.

“After the Gonzi government created parliamentary assistants to give goodies to Nationalist backbanchers, Joseph Muscat appointed Labourite backbenchers as chairpersons of authorities and public entities to gift them many thousands of euros in salaries. These manoeuvrers undermine the autonomy of Parliament and rendered MPs mere puppets.”

Conflicts of interest are also found on the Opposition benches, he said, criticising the fact that the PN saw nothing wrong that its MPs act as consultants to db Group. “Can Simon Busuttil tell us how many of the lawyer candidates of the pN pocketed in commissions from the obscene IIP scheme? And what shall we say about the system of fiduciary companies that raise a lot of quesitons with PN and PL MPs...candidates involved as directors in companies such as these? Can Beppe Fenech Adami tell us why he failed to carry out the proper checks before becoming director of the fiduciary company Capital One, investigated over allegations of laundering drug money?”

AD spokesperson Mario Mallia said the party was calling for the the appointment of a commissioner for standards and ethics in politics and for MPs to fulfil their role on a full-time basis to avoid conflicts of interest. At the beginning of this legislature, he said, there was much talk of Constitutional reform, but four years on, practically nothing has been done.

Parties should not be in the pocket of big business and the law should regulate lobbying, Mallia added.

It was clear that the PL and the PN had failed to strengthen the institutions over the years, AD said, and this was evident in the lack of progress registered in creating a Constitutional organ that would address the issue. Nothing had been achieved because the PN had refused to form part of the process, as it was being led by Franco Debono, which led to the PN not participating. “This was a convenient and calculated step by the PL to keep the process of Constitutional change on the shelf...Four years on, we are practically still where we started.”
As things stood, even if there was a change in the governing party, it would be only a cosmetic change, because the election system should give a voice to other parties.

Alternattiva Demokratika chairperson Arnold Cassola lashed out at AD's de facto exclusion from every televised debate. “This is shameful. Last election we had 3 debates with the other parties. This time there were only 4 debates involving only the PL and the PL and a press conference each. “I'm sorry to say that instead of the Broadcasting Authority of Malta, it is moving closer to the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe.”

In order for checks and balances to be strengthened, there must be an independent political party, like AD that refused the manoeuvring of the two major parties, the party said. "A vote for AD means a clean vote".